Nylons are also called polyamides, because of the characteristic
amide groups in the backbone chain. Proteins,
such as the silk nylon was made to replace, are also polyamides. These amide groups
are very polar, and can hydrogen bond with each other. Because
of this, and because the nylon backbone is so regular and symmetrical,
are often crystalline, and make very good fibers.
The nylon in the pictures on this page is called nylon
6,6, because each repeat unit of the polymer chain has two stretches
of carbon atoms, each being six carbon atoms long. Other nylons can have
different numbers of carbon atoms in these stretches.
Nylons can be made from diacid chlorides and diamines. Nylon 6,6 is made
from the monomers adipoyl chloride and hexamethylene diamine.
This is one way of making nylon 6,6 in the laboratory. But in a nylon
plant, it's usually made by reacting adipic acid with hexamethylene
If you want to know how this works, click here.
Another kind of nylon is nylon 6. It's a lot like nylon 6,6 except that
it only has one kind of carbon chain, which is six atoms long.
A family of nylons with their own page are aramids.
Polymer Science Learning Center
Department of Polymer Science
The University of Southern Mississippi